Richardson: Arizona schools need a trained pro, not a politician - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: Arizona schools need a trained pro, not a politician

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 7:48 am | Updated: 12:47 am, Tue Oct 29, 2013.

This bulletin has been prepared for the use of teachers, school administrators, and curriculum development committees. It will also be useful to members of your boards of trustees and to the general public in helping to interpret the philosophy and objectives of the elementary schools.”

Written by C. L. Harkins, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1956, that’s taken from the forward of the “Teaching Guide and Philosophy of Education.”

The guide’s six chapters covered “Philosophy and Purposes of Elementary Education in Arizona,” “A Planned Educational Program,” “A Plan For The Improvement Of Teaching and Learning,” “Explanation Of The Unit Of Teaching,” “An Allotment For Time Allotment Teaching” and “Possibilities For Effective Educational Work In Arizona.”

It was 46 pages long.

A booklet written like that today would be volumes and only released after reviews, vetting and approval by the legislature and powerful special interest groups.

It’s no wonder the public school system that was once one of the best is now one of the worst, and often ranked below certain southern states everyone likes to make fun of as being backwards and uneducated.

Since 1984, the schools in Arizona haven’t been led by professional educators; they’ve been led by professional politicians.

It’s been nearly 30 years since people who’d been in the classroom and had dedicated their lives to teaching and educational leadership have led statewide public education. People who had a vested and professional interest in public education and weren’t just passing through on their way to higher office.

I don’t ever remember hearing about a superintendent of public instruction running for higher office and their unspoken plans to be governor.

How things have changed in the last three decades. Since C. Dianne Bishop left office in 1984, the leadership of the public school system has been in the hands of ex-legislators and political operatives.

Arizona’s current Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, who’s known as a tireless worker and campaigner in his 20 plus years as a politician runs Arizona’s public schools. Before him, current Arizona Attorney General, Tom Horne ran the schools for eight years. Both have been mentioned as future candidates for higher office. Neither one is a professional educator. Both are professional politicians.

Huppenthal’s claim to fame has been to change the grading system for public schools from a word classification like “excelling” to a letter grade like an “A.” Yippee do! He recently renamed the Common Core Standards to Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards. An Arizona Republic editorial on September 25, 2013, said name change was about pacifying “the far right.”

Pacifying the far right and politically powerful special interest groups and underfunding public education have become two of the highest priorities for the Arizona State Legislature for years where both Horne and Huppenthal served.

Having a politician run education is like having a ditch digger do brain surgery.

While Huppenthal is ramping up for his reelection campaign and placating the right wing, two professional educators have their sights on showing the door.

Last week, Mesa native and Arizona State University education professor David Garcia announced his candidacy for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Garcia is a product of Mesa Public Schools and Arizona State University. He received his Master’s Degree and Doctorate from the University of Chicago. After graduating from Mesa High School, Garcia served in U. S. Army. He served as associate superintendent of public instruction and a research analyst for the State Senate before being appointed to the faculty at ASU.

Sharon Thomas is a high school English teacher from Phoenix is the second announced educator seeking to oust Huppenthal and put a professional educator in charge of Arizona’s public schools.

While we’ll never get back to the days when Mr. Harkins ran Arizona schools and a simpler way of doing things, I have to believe when a trained professional is driving the bus instead of a professional politician public education will get back on track and rebuild a system the politicos have so horribly broken.

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